Unknown Roman, ‘Etruscan Bronze Sculpture of Hercules’, 300 BC to 100 BC, Barakat Gallery
Unknown Roman, ‘Etruscan Bronze Sculpture of Hercules’, 300 BC to 100 BC, Barakat Gallery
Unknown Roman, ‘Etruscan Bronze Sculpture of Hercules’, 300 BC to 100 BC, Barakat Gallery

This magnificent bronze sculpture depicts the legendary hero Hercules, known to the Etruscans as Hercle. In northern Italy he was worshipped as a defender of the civilized world against the beasts or monsters that threatened it. He is depicted as a nude youth, standing with his weight on the right leg. He wields a club in his raised right hand in a fighting posture. The Nemean lion skin is draped over his extended left arm and refers to the first of his twelve labours. The skin is rendered in some detail with the head, paws and tail all clearly defined. Etruscan bronze statuettes were cast solid by the lost-wax method. After casting the details, such as the short curly hair, were added by punching and engraving.

Hercle was a popular figure in Etruscan bronze statuary and this statuette was probably intended as a votive offering in a temple sanctuary. There were several cult sites in Etruria, particularly in the Sabellian region, and the bronze statuettes discovered here exhibit a wide range of styles. This detailed study of the male form is incredibly naturalistic and refined. The surface is highly polished drawing attention to the muscles and bone structure. Part of the club is missing but the condition is otherwise excellent. (AM)

Ref: I. Jucker, ‘Italy of the Etruscans,’ (Jerusalem, 1991), pp. 132-134.

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